Today is the "First" European Science Journalists' Conference. So far, we are in the midst of the usual: Is there a crisis in science journalism? Clearly the business is changing, and those who work for the print media feel the pinch, and yet people have access to more reporting on science than before. Kathryn O'Hara says that we are contracting in a funny way. Again, this blog is a good example. I expect people who already interested in science in some way to be reading it.
The speaker before O'Hara, Jan-Olov Johansson, pointed out that in Sweden, at least, science is rated very high in the opinion polls, when people are asked what type of news they want. So why is science not in the news as much as we think it should be? Do we "pander" to what we think the public wants, publishing stories about animals, etc., or is the problem the "gatekeepers," who decide what gets published or aired?
Complaints: tweeting. Journalists who are used to writing in-depth articles are suddenly told they have to tweet. Could an anti-twitter revolution be in the air amongst science writers? Even the ones who do it either use it to link to other things.
But no one seems to really like it.
So here's the question: How do you get your science news? Do you care about "facts" or do you live in the postmodernist age in which facts are not important? Do you want stories you can read in two minutes? If the first sentence doesn't grab you right away, do you click to the next article?
Next up, more on the changing media landscape. Here is what has not come up yet: PR. Many of the people here work in research PR department. Speaking for myself (in my other hat) we think of ourselves as science journalists, in part because we read our own words under other people's bylines in respected media. Also, we do write for the general public and even though we will never write anything critical of our institutions, the science itself is checked and checked again.
If you respond before the end of today's conference, your comments will be passed on to other science journalists.
Perhaps science doesn't grab enough headlines because people prefer news of disasters, etc., whereas science stories often fall into the boring 'good news' category?
I'm sceptical that there is a strong demand for genuine science journalism. Just because some Swedes said that they wanted more science news doesn't mean this preference is widely shared and authentic. Every introductory statistics course reminds you that how people conduct their lives often differs significantly from how they respond to a survey (ie. under-reporting their junk food consumption).
I sI suspect I suspect you are right. Today someone presented a survey that said Brazilians would rather read science than sports news. That can't be right.